long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Mothers of Invention of a snowless setting

In yesterday's post, I didn't explain something I thought was obvious. The Mothers of Invention alludes to the well-known proverb, "Necessity is the mother of invention."

The LDS scholars and educators who are Mesoamerican advocates have found it necessary to invent all kinds of rhetorical tricks to explain how and why
(i) Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were actually ignorant speculators who were wrong about Cumorah and misled the Church for 100 years;
(ii) there are actually two Cumorahs; and
(iii) the text actually describes a Mesoamerican setting.

Yesterday I discussed the canard that the river Sidon "must flow north."

Today I will discuss snow.

Mesoamerican advocates have trained their followers well. If you engage in a conversation about Book of Mormon geography with people afflicted with Mesomania, within minutes they will say something such as, "If the Book of Mormon took place in North America, it would have mentioned snow."

The argument is so irrational that we're surprised it has endured, but I heard it again last week from a well-educated, experienced, long-time BYU-affiliated person who was perfectly serious.

The basic idea is explained throughout the publications of the citation cartel, so if you're involved with this issue, you've surely seen or heard it.

Here's one of the best explanations, this one from Jeff Lindsay, a persistent Mesoamerican advocate:

"If the Book of Mormon were based on elements from Joseph's environment, and if he was describing a people who lived or at least fought major battles in the New York area (around the puny hill where the plates where buried, which many Mormons incorrectly and implausibly associated with the Hill Cumorah of the text), then we would expect the snow and cold of winter to play a key factor."


This passage is a beaut on several levels.

First, the passage exemplifies the series of cascading assumptions that typify Mesoamerican "logic."

Second, by rejecting the New York Cumorah and claiming that "many Mormons" are incorrect, the passage dismisses Joseph and Oliver as ignorant speculators who deceived the Church--but instead of mentioning them by name, he slyly includes them in the amorphous group "many Mormons." (Note: few Mesoamerican advocates will openly admit they think this about Joseph and Oliver, but a few have. Whether they openly admit it or not, every Mesoamerican advocate rejects Joseph and Oliver. Every time you see a map (like the ones at BYU Studies I linked to yesterday) or see a display like the one in the North Visitors Center on Temple Square, or read an article promoting the Mesoamerican setting, or even look at the artwork in most chapels and the Arnold Friberg paintings set in Central America that are in missionary editions of the Book of Mormon, you are seeing an implicit repudiation of Joseph and Oliver. So it's not shocking to us that Jeff Lindsay would write this. It's typical.)

Third, we see this rejection of Joseph and Oliver framed as a proof of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon!

That's my favorite element of the no-snow argument, actually. The "scholars and educators" are actually making the argument that if Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon, he would have mentioned snow as an integral part of the narrative. What they don't mention is that "View of the Hebrews" also doesn't mention snow (except when the immigrants came across the Bering Strait). Their argument actually bolsters the anti-Mormon claims.

Here is the genesis of the Mesomania about snow.

1 Nephi 11:8 describes the fruit on the tree of life by writing "the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow."

This is the only mention of the term "snow" in the Book of Mormon (not counting the 116 pages). Presumably Nephi wrote this passage in the Old World, not the New World, and then, presumably, no one mentioned snow in the New World. Therefore, according to the citation cartel, the New World events of the Book of Mormon had to take place in a setting that lacked snow.

I know, you're having trouble keeping a straight face reading their argument, but there's more.

The "no snow" argument is really the inverse of the argument these same "scholars and educators" make about volcanoes. The text never mentions volcanoes, so these "scholars and educators" conclude the Book of Mormon had to take place in a setting that featured volcanoes.

Which is the same argument that the Book of Mormon had to take place in an area that featured tapirs and jungles and massive stone temples, none of which are ever mentioned or described in the text.

According to Mesomania logic, it is less likely that a feature of a geographical setting (i.e., snow) is actually found in that setting when it is mentioned in the text than when a feature (i.e., volcanoes) is not mentioned at all!

That's only the beginning of this Alice-in-Wonderland logic invented by necessity.

FairMormon has a fun approach. Supposedly, people question the credibility of Nephi 11:8. Look at the answer. (You can see why I never refer serious people to FairMormon).

"Contrary to popular belief, snow is not unheard of in Israel and Jerusalem

"In 1 Nephi 11:8, Nephi says Lehi describes the Tree of Life by saying "the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow." Since Nephi and Lehi were desert folk from Jerusalem, and then likely lived in tropical Central America, why would they have used "snow" as a description?
Contrary to popular belief, snow is not unheard of in Israel and Jerusalem."

Anyone who reads the Bible knows snow is not unheard of in Israel and Jerusalem because the Bible mentions it several times, both as a metaphor and as an actual occurrence. E.g., Proverbs 26:1 "As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool."

FairMormon starts with a straw man argument--in the real world, there is no "popular belief" that snow is unheard of in Israel--and then gets even more ridiculous.

FairMormon, a charter member of the citation cartel that publishes articles anonymously just like Benjamin Winchester, proceeds to claim Nephi and Lehi "likely lived in tropical Central America." Then they ask the rhetorical question, "why would they have used 'snow' as a description?"

The answer, according to FairMormon, is that "many Old Testament scriptures" "also use the term 'snow'." Their answer kills their own straw man, of course, a point they are oblivious to. But worse, they also don't seem to realize they missed a key point.

The Old Testament writers used "snow" as a metaphor because their readers and listeners knew what snow was!

If I wanted people to know something was really, really white and pure, would I write that it was as white as xhinecoscg? Not if my readers don't know what xhinecoscg is.

The very point that FairMormon cites as a reason why Biblical writers used "snow" as a metaphor--because it was known to the audience--refutes their claim that Lehi and Nephi lived in "tropical Central America." Does it make any sense for Nephi to use as a metaphor a term that his people would not understand?

I know, it is unbelievable that the "scholars and educators" would make an argument such as this, but when necessity is the mother of invention, sometimes your invention is not going to make any sense.

As long as we're looking at FairMormon, notice that they overlook another key point.

The phrase "driven snow" appears nowhere in the Bible.

The anonymous FairMormon author(s) clam that because many Old Testament scriptures use the term "snow," "it is not surprising that Lehi and Nephi (who knew Israelite scripture well) would use the term."

Except Lehi and Nephi did not use the Biblical term!

"Driven snow" is not "snow." The Bible uses "leprous as snow," "cold of snow," "melted snow," "snow like wool," "whiter than snow," and "white as snow" (the only use in the New Testament, used three times), but it never uses "driven snow." I don't see any passages in the Bible that allude to snow being driven or even blown. There are a couple of references to snow falling, but nothing like driven snow.

According to the Oxford dictionary, "driven snow" means "snow piled into drifts or made smooth by the wind, taken as a type of purity." Apparently Shakespeare coined the phrase "white as driven snow," although it is such an obvious metaphor that it surely preceded him. Driven snow is what you see in England, where you get lots of snow piled into drifts.

I've been in a snowstorm in the Middle East. It falls, but doesn't accumulate enough to be blown into drifts. As far as I can determine, the deepest known snowfall on record (other than in the mountains) in Israel was less than 2 feet in February 1950. Obviously, the weather could have been different in Nephi's day. Maybe it snowed 5 feet deep on the Arabian peninsula and blew all over the place.

But I doubt that.

And even if it did, how would Nephi's descendants in the New World know what "snow" was when they were living in the Mayan tropical paradise? Let's assume the absurd and pretend they saw white snow during a freak storm on one of the mountains in Central America. Even then, unless they were living in those mountain tops, how would they know what "driven snow" was?

Remember, they couldn't get that phrase from the scriptures.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Our LDS "scholars and educators" who promote the Mesoamerican theory want us to believe that Nephi's people didn't know what snow was, let alone driven snow, because they lived in "tropical Central America."

They want us to believe that Nephi used a metaphor his own people could not understand.

They want us to believe that although Nephi knew about driven snow well enough to use it as a metaphor (a metaphor he did not borrow from the scriptures), he could not have lived in a place where snow was driven; i.e., North America.

At the same time, they want us to believe that Nephi lived in a place characterized by natural features he forgot to mention, including volcanoes, jungles, jade, tapirs, massive stone pyramids--and, let's not forget, millions of Mayans.

The citation cartel has come up with plenty of additional fun explanations. The examples I've cited above are the tip of the iceberg--the tip of the snowbank. Hopefully my brief analysis gives you an idea of what to look for.

Perhaps the most bizarre of all these articles is one posted by the parent organization of Book of Mormon Central America, here:

There's another awesome one here:

The next time someone tries to persuade you that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who deceived the Church because the Book of Mormon doesn't mention "snow" frequently enough, you should have a decent response by now.

But there's one more I have to mention.

The Fair blog at LDS Living has an all-time classic here. I'll put my interlinear notes in red:

Weather in relation to Book of Mormon geography
byFAIR Blog
Opinions & Features

Comments [footnotes omitted]
Snow [actually, "driven snow"] is only mentioned once in The Book of Mormon, and that is only when the Lehites were still in the Old World. [We don't know when Nephi wrote this. Nephi wasn't describing physical snow anyway; he was using "driven snow" as a metaphor, writing some time after the event (i.e., it's just as likely he wrote chapter 11 in the New World as in the Old World). He wrote to his children (2 Ne. 26:1), so using "driven snow" as a metaphor while living in tropical Central America would be confusing at best, a contradiction to his insistence on writing in plainness (2 Nephi 32:7)] 

This is very indicative of where The Book of Mormon took place. [I agree; it had to take place in an area that featured "driven snow," especially since this is not a Biblical term.]

If they lived in an area that was cold, such as the area around the Great Lakes, surely the bitter winters known in that area would have been mentioned. [Lots of fallacies here, but I'll just mention the obvious three. First, Nephi did mention driven snow. Second, Book of Mormon authors rarely mentioned weather, and when Mormon did (Alma 46:40), he mentioned "some seasons," not just the two in Central America (rainy and dry). Third, this argument, if applied consistently, precludes Central America as a possible setting because the text never once mentions volcanoes, jungles, jade, tapirs, or even Mayans. But one thing we've learned from the citation cartel over the years: they don't apply their arguments consistently.]

Other than the one reference , there is no mention of snow at all where the primary events of The Book of Mormon took place. ["Other than the one reference" is a classic dodge, isn't it? If there were two references, the argument would be, "other than the two references." This line of reasoning has no coherent limit. And the one mention is still one more than any mention of Mesoamerican features.]

John Lund states “The pilgrims of Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 often referenced the cold and the snow. If the major events of The Book of Mormon all happened around the New York Hill Cumorah, one would expect to hear about snow.”

[This is almost poetic, the ability to pack so many logical fallacies into two sentences. The pilgrims landed in winter and nearly starved. Lehi landed in the spring with plenty of time to plant crops and with abundant wildlife to eat in the meantime. Not even the text suggests that the major events of the Book of Mormon happened around Cumorah; only the final battles did. This is another fine example of a straw man fallacy (creating the straw man claim that the major events took place around Cumorah, then attacking that straw man on the ground that the text doesn't mention snow). The poetry comes in adding "all" to major events. Needless to say, many of major events took place in and around Jerusalem, so this straw man fails on that account already. For that matter, why didn't Nephi describe snow falling when he was confronting Laban, since snow is so common in Jerusalem now, according to these "scholars and educators."]

However, the cold is not what we hear about. Instead, we hear phrases like “heat of the day”[This is a fun rhetorical trick. "Phrases like" implies there are other similar phrases, but there aren't any! Plus, anyone who has been in the Midwestern U.S. or even western New York in the summer knows what "heat of the day" means. Besides, it's easy to have a battle in the "heat of the day" even in cold weather. For example, in The Late War, we have this sequence (on p.49): "And when the battle waxed hot, and they began to rush upon one another with great violence, the small band of Columbia fought desperately, and the slaughter was dreadful; and the pure snow of heaven was sprinkled and stained with the blood of men!"], without any indication of a cold climate one would expect to see if The Book of Mormon took place in the North Eastern United States. [This reprise of the straw man expands the fake setting a little beyond the immediate proximity, but it's no less misleading because of the straw man assertion that the Book of Mormon took place in the North Eastern U.S. Only the final battles took place at Cumorah.] 

The Lehites came from the Middle East, travelled years through the vast Saudi Arabian deserts, and then we only hear about the heat of the new land. [I missed the part in the text where Nephi relates his encounter with all this heat in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia. Why was it okay for him to forget to mention the weather in the Old World, but he was supposed to describe it in detail in the New World?]

If it were a new, colder climate, it would most certainly be mentioned. [The "most certainly" argument is a lot of fun, especially when FairMormon doesn't know what was on the 116 pages and Nephi specifically focused not on history (or climate) but on prophecies and promises (which Mesomania also treats with great sophistry). A generation removed from Nephi, people had no "Old World" to compare with, yet they still presumably understood Nephi's "driven snow" metaphor because Nephi wrote in plainness. And look at how Mesomania really uses the "most certainly" argument. If there were volcanoes, jungles, jade, jaguars, tapirs, massive stone pyramids, and, especially, millions of Mayans, these "most certainly" would not be mentioned, according to Mesomania. Do these Mesoamerican promoting "scholars and educators" really expect us to buy this argument? The answer, of course, is yes. They do expect us to fall for these arguments. And thousands of their students have gone through BYU accepting these logical fallacies, which they have continued to prop up as Institute and Seminary and Sunday School teachers ever since.]

The rest of this awesome article is found on Fairmormon here. It's more of the same nonsense, IMO.

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